Print This Page SparkPeople

Find Your Perfect Weight - Part 3

Only You Can Decide What's Good Enough
  -- By Dean Anderson, Fitness & Behavior Expert
You know that you want to lose weight. But how do you pick a goal weight that’s right for you? Do you find a celebrity, or even a friend, whose body you like and try to reach the same weight as him? Do you aim for a previous weight of your own, like what you weighed when you wore that junior prom dress 25 years ago?

Unfortunately, neither of these is a good way to set a weight loss goal. Finding your best weight isn't as simple as plugging your height, age, and gender into a formula and getting a number spit back at you. Your body is unique, and so is your ideal weight. Because it involves factors that are both objective (like your health risks) and subjective (like your personal satisfaction with your appearance), your ideal body weight is much more than a number on the scale: It’s more like a state of being. You’re at your ideal body weight when: In Part 1 of this series, we looked at several of the methods experts use to determine when your weight puts you at risk of having health problems, and how you can use those methods to set a realistic goal weight for yourself. Part 2 discussed body type and how it affects not only your shape but also your weight and appearance.

The third major element in picking a goal weight that’s right for you (along with those described in Parts 1 and 2) is figuring out what it will take to make you feel happy and satisfied in your own skin.

Sure, we all care about our health. But when it comes right down to it, most of us want to look good — and feel good about how we look too! There’s nothing at all wrong with that…unless it’s someone else’s idea of “looking good” that you’re trying to achieve instead of your own.

Why does it matter? Because the more you expect weight loss to influence how other people see you or relate to you, the harder it is to be successful. Eventually, you’ll be resentful that you have to work so hard to lose weight just to keep someone else happy. And that will lead to anger and rebellion against your own efforts.

The simple reality is that you can’t control what other people think of you, no matter what you do, how much you weigh, or what you look like. If you want to feel happy in your own skin, it’s your own happiness and your own attitude that you have to focus on — those are the only things you have any control over. And that begins with choosing to lose weight for yourself and on your own terms, not to conform to other people's preferences.

This is easier said than done when you live in a society obsessed with thinness and beauty. Who doesn't have at least some desire to be accepted and admired by their peers? We all want to fit in! Because of this, being overweight means that you may not be as popular as the “beautiful" people. It means you may find it harder to get the job you want. And you might even be excluded from certain activities. Excess weight can, literally, come between people in personal relationships, too. And worst of all, it can interfere with your relationship with yourself.

When your weight causes you come up short when making a first impression (no matter how superficial or unfair you believe this to be), it hurts. And it’s very easy to start hating yourself or your own body for “causing” this problem, even though the real problem is a foolish and mean-spirited cultural stereotype.

So, is it realistic for you to think that losing weight will help you avoid these kinds of problems? Yes — but that is no guarantee. (After all, there are plenty of unhappy, frustrated, and lonely people who will tell you that being thin is no guarantee that things will go the way you want.)

If losing weight is going to change your life, it's not because of how you look, how many pounds you lose, or what others will think of you. Your life, confidence, self-esteem, and attitude will improve when the process of losing weight itself empowers you — to seek what you want, to succeed without limiting yourself, and to believe that who you are doesn't depend on how you look and how others react to your appearance. And that process of empowerment begins with choosing to lose weight the right way, for the right reasons — and for you alone.

So how do you use these principles to set goal weight? This mental exercise will help:

Imagine you live on a planet where scales have never been invented, where there is no concept of body weight at all, and no formulas like BMI have ever been conceived. On this planet, sex appeal is not used to sell or market cars, fragrances, or anything for that matter. There are no public images that tell people what's "attractive" and what's not. Friendships, social groups, and intimate relationships are a basic part of life, but physical appearance is only one of many factors that attract people to one another. Everyone wears basic unisex clothing that minimizes differences in body size and shape.

How will you know when your body is the right size and shape? What criteria will you use to decide when it’s OK to accept your body the way it is, and when you need to change something? How will you know that you feel good enough about being in your own skin?

Now ask yourself this: Is there any reason you can't answer these same questions on this planet?